Battle of the hiking boots: Hoka Tor Ultra Hi vs Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX
As a reminder, I have Morton’s neuroma, osteoarthritis in the ball of my right big toe with a small bunion, and historical achilles issues. Whilst the latter has mostly cleared up since starting a ketogenic diet, I have discovered that I can still get a little stiffness after a long hike. Or at least I do with one of these pairs of boots…
Right off the bat, I should say that I love Hoka shoes. I switched to them on the advice of my physiotherapist and podiatrist after wrecking my achilles wearing Vivobarefoot shoes. I have not looked back. I have Challengers for the gym and every day, and Cliftons for road running. I unreservedly recommend them.
As such, when I invested in a decent pair of walking boots last March, I bought the Hoka Tor Ultra Hi and was not in the slightest bit disappointed (at first). They are the most comfortable and stable pair of shoes/boots I have ever worn in my life.
However, by November, the seam at the ball of the foot had split on both boots. I was highly disappointed as a pair of boots that cost that much (~£200) should not break after 8 months of use, especially when I only wore them a maximum of once a week. Thankfully Hoka have a year’s warranty and honoured that with absolutely no fuss. From a customer service perspective, they really went above and beyond. (Unlike Foot Patrol / JD Sports who I originally bought the boots from, and who I will never buy anything of value from again.)
To be honest, I loved those boots so much that I decided I couldn’t cope with the idea of a second pair splitting on me, so I got a refund rather than an exchange. It felt traumatising to potentially lose two pairs! Well let me tell you, they are right when they say that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, as now I wish I’d just risked it and gotten a second pair.
Anyway, I had wanted to try the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX as I thought they might be comparable to the Tor Ultra Hi’s in terms of plushness / comfort, so that is what I bought to replace my Tors. As a bonus, I got them in the sale so they only cost £90. A massive bargain! That said, they cannot compare to the Hoka’s in terms of comfort, thus they are a boot of regret.
Let me be clear, the Inov-8 RocFlys are not a bad boot in the slightest. Probably, if I had never worn the Hoka Tors I would not be regretting buying the Inov-8s, because the RocFly is a great hiking boot. However, they simply are nowhere near as comfortable as the Hoka Tors, and for someone with my feet, comfort is the most important thing.
Anyway, here is my review comparing the two boots on nine criteria:
Comfort: Hoka Tor Ultra Hi is the winner
- There quite literally is no hiking boot which compares to the Hoka Tor Ultra Hi in terms of comfort, imo. The cushioning is beyond compare and they were comfortable from the very first moment I wore them. There was no need to break them in and I never once received a blister from this (or any) Hoka boot (or shoe). In addition, because they are cut high, stones and other detritus never got into them. Finally, my feet always felt fresh and pain-free, even at the end of a long hike.
- In contrast, the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX were extremely hard right out of the box and needed about 7 walks to break them in. I did not get any blisters, but the soles felt rock hard and quite uncomfortable at first. Now they are broken in, I would say they are about 60-70% as soft and comfortable under foot as the Hoka’s. The mid-cut means that stones and other detritus do sometimes work their way into the boot. Finally, with these boots, I generally get plantar soreness / tenderness about 15km into a hike, and the soles of my feet will be very tender for hours afterwards.
Waterproofing: Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX is the winner
- This winter has been horrendous in terms of mud and water on the paths and the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX have kept my feet 100% dry, even when the mud sometimes was ankle high. I cannot fault this boot at all on that. 10/10, five gold stars, etc., etc..
- The Hoka Tor Ultra Hi also kept my feet dry but, towards the end of their life, I would sometimes feel a little dampness as I walked if it was really wet or rainy. When I removed the boots at the end of a walk, my socks were never damp or wet, but I did feel like I could feel moisture when I had them on. That said, it could also have been because of the split seam, as it was not something I noticed at first (although, I don’t think there was as much rain earlier in the year). So it was either due to the fault, or because they only have a Gore-Tex membrane, whereas the Inov-8s have a Gore-Tex outer. Either way, the Inov-8 win!
Grippyness: Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX is the winner
- When it comes to slippery and rocky paths, the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX also outperforms the Hoka Tors. They definitely grip better.
- The Hoka Tor Ultra Hi are also good in terms of grip, but just not quite as good as the Inov-8s.
Stability: Hoka Tor Ultra Hi is the winner
- Undoubtedly, the Hoka Tor Ultra Hi are the best in this respect. This is because they are cut higher, and I suspect it’s also because that’s what Hoka were going for when they designed them. When I had them on, I felt safe and stable and never once went over on my ankle.
- As the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX are cut lower (a mid-boot), they are inherently less stable. I am agile and able to catch myself if I go over on my ankle, but the fact remains that I have gone over and that might cause problems for less agile people.
Achilles support: Hoka Tor Ultra Hi is the winner
- Again, because they are cut higher, the Hoka Tor Ultra Hi are significantly better in terms of achilles support. There is no pressure on my achilles at all and I can hike for as long as I want without any achilles tenderness during the hike or afterwards.
- Unfortunately, as the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX are cut lower this means they end mid-achilles and this pressure causes me a small amount of discomfort several kilometres into my hike.
Foot width: Tie(-ish)!
- As I have a small bunion, I thought I might get some benefit from the wider Inov-8s but I cannot feel any difference. I think this is because my feet are already narrow. However, if you have wide feet, the Inov-8s would probably be better for you.
Morton’s neuroma support: Hoka Tor Ultra Hi is the winner (with the help of Injinji)
- I previously thought that I had solved my Morton’s neuroma pain with the aid of Injinji Ultra Run padded toe socks and I have, so long as I am also wearing the ultra plush Hoka Tor Ultra Hi.
- With the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX, I start to get the beginnings of the neuroma pain after about 15km of walking, but it is nowhere near as bad as without the toe socks.
- To be clear, the real winner here is Injinji Ultra Run padded toe socks as without them, I am in agony from the neuroma pain after about 5km of walking irrespective of what boot I am wearing. However, the Hoka cushioning definitely does help.
- People with very bad taste say that you shouldn’t care what your hiking boot looks like, as it’s all about how they perform. I say you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style for performance, or vice versa. I like both of these boots in terms of style, so if you are the kind of superficial person who judges people on the basis of their shoes (as I am), then you can rest assured that you won’t be looking down on yourself because of either of these boots.
Weight: Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX is the winner
- At just 390g, the Inov-8 RocFly G 390 GTX are the clear winner in terms of weight.
- The Hoka Tor Ultra Hi boot is 522g, so much heavier, although I never thought they felt heavy once I had them on.
I hope this little comparison has been helpful to you. Due to my specific feet issues, the Hoka Tor Ultra Hi are the overall winners for me in this battle of the hiking boot. This is because I value the comfort and stability of the Hokas over the lighter, grippier, and slightly better waterproofing of the Inov-8s. That said, the Inov-8s really are a fantastic boot and due to their construction, they could never fail in the way the Hokas failed (as in, they have no seam at the ball of the foot). I would recommend the Inov-8s especially to people who don’t have mash-up feet. As for me, I just have to save up again to get myself a new pair of Tor Ultra Hi, so that I can be reunited with my one true hiking boot.